GW Premiere: Reckless Son’s "Good Friday" + Interview

Article Contributed by Candice Dollar | Published on Friday, December 9, 2022

"And now, tell me and tell me true. Where have you been wandering, and in what countries have you traveled? Tell us of the peoples themselves, and of their cities--who were hostile, savage and uncivilized, and who, on the other hand, hospitable and humane… for a good friend is as dear to a man as his own brother.” -Homer’s The Odyssey

It is no surprise that New York based musician and traveling storyteller, Matt Butler was deeply moved and influenced by Homer’s quintessential hero’s journey, The Odyssey. Like Homer’s protagonist Odysseus, Butler introduces us to the “Reckless Son” in order to remind us that there is power in sharing our stories.

The aptly named Reckless Son EP, which will release on January 27th, is inspired by the people he met while performing in prisons across the country. “Reckless Son wasn’t written for the incarcerated. It was written for those who haven’t had the privilege of meeting these people and hearing their stories for themselves,” Butler explains in a press release.

The moving collection of music and monologues beautifully illustrates the idea that while we cannot know pleasure without knowing pain, there is no deeper pleasure than knowing that we belong somewhere in the world. There is nothing more soothing to our souls than sharing our experiences with other people, and knowing that we are seen and heard.

Blurring the line between fact and fiction, but always preserving a shred of truth, Reckless Son adopts a character for each story that he tells. In a heartbreaking song, “Good Friday,” which debuts today, the speaker turns to his mother for warmth and shelter: “Mama let me in to take a shower/ Mama let me in to clean my clothes/ Mama let me in, to wash away the sin.”

Good Friday Lyric Video -

Good Friday Smart Link -

Good Friday Monologue -

Good Friday SoundCloud -

Addiction is the sin that he is referring to: “Your boy is just another junkie on the street/ If this is hell and every angel has to fall/ Then I’ll be crawling home for one more score.”

The mother wears an albatross— a symbol for healing.

To the son, she represents a safe place to land when he is broke, and broken, yet she is a place that remains out of reach: “Under a scaffold, far below/ High as hell, nowhere to go/ I watched her sitting with a book between her hands.”

Ultimately, the speaker must accept that, in the words of Matt Butler, “there are some things even Moms can't fix.”

He concludes, “And I guess that’s why you always tell me no/ Cause you can’t help/ And I can’t help myself at all.”

Candice Dollar from Grateful Web is pleased to introduce readers to Reckless Son. Read their conversation below. 

Matt Butler

GW: How long have you been writing, storytelling, and playing music? Who or what shaped you and encouraged you to express yourself in this way?

MB: “In a lot of ways I think of writing as a first love – I started trying to write short stories as soon as I was able to read, and I think my first ambition was to be a novelist.  Music always seemed inaccessible and people in school that could play instruments had a talent that felt beyond me and what I was capable of, so I avoided playing for a long time.  As a teen I felt a pretty desperate need to express myself beyond just words, but with physicality, and eventually got my parents to buy me a guitar and I started my first band within a few weeks.  I played really aggressive stuff, I loved bands like Nirvana and Fugazi and The Stooges and from that point on, being in a punk band became my thing.  It wasn’t until way later that I got into the whole ‘traveling storyteller vibe’.”

GW: How did you start down this road of playing for the “forgotten”? When and how did you first start performing in prisons? How did that transpire?

MB: “None of it was planned, I can tell you that.  In 2016 I was given the opportunity of writing a song for a documentary film about teenagers struggling with substance abuse, and as a result I was introduced to a lot of social workers, advocates and people that work in the non-profit space.  I saw a video on Facebook of some men in the Chesterfield County Jail in Virginia singing songs, and I thought there was a chance they’d relate to some of the songs I’d been writing.  Fortunately, because of my connections through the film I knew the right people to ask.  I didn’t end up at Chesterfield until a year later, but I was given a chance to perform at The Albany County Jail and, as they say, the rest is history.”

GW: Ohio’s Chillicothe Correctional Institute is one of the prisons you’ve spent time performing for, and oddly enough, Chillicothe is approximately 30 minutes from where I grew up. I am well-aware of the unique struggles of that particular region of the country, especially the issues that often lead people down the path to incarceration, but I am curious about what your experience was like, as someone from the “outside” looking in. Any memorable stories and/or experiences? Lessons learned and/or lasting impressions?

Matt Butler

MB: “I grew up in Manhattan so I’ve really appreciated the opportunity to spend time in the Midwest and places like Ohio.  I talk about that and a particularly life changing experience I had at Chillicothe pretty extensively in a couple of the monologues in Reckless Son.  That’s a plug to come see the show, by the way!  What I will say though, is that I had the very unique experience of being able to see America by seeing its jails and prisons.  I literally went across the country by way of the country’s most shadowy places, and it was quite an education.  It was humbling, and I learned that for the most part everywhere you go people all want the same things.  They want to work, they want to eat, and they want to spend time with their families.  We all have more in common than we realize.”

GW: As someone who believes wholeheartedly in the power of storytelling, and who has dedicated my entire adult life to art and the humanities, your mission to tell the stories of those who are “behind the walls” is deeply moving. Does this mission of yours come from your own personal experiences of feeling unheard? A desire to tell your story?

MB: “Like I said earlier, none of this ever felt planned to me.  It was never deliberate but more something I got swept up by.  The experience transformed me, and it’s transforming me still.  But yes, I believe I know what it’s like to feel unseen and unheard and that’s a pretty terrible feeling.”

GW: Can you explain how you were influenced by Bruce Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town, musically or otherwise?

MB: “I grew up in Manhattan and I have barely ever been behind the wheel of a car but somehow ‘Racing in The Street,’ a song where the first line is ‘I got a sixty-nine Chevy with a three ninety-six’ seemed to describe my whole life to me.  To this day I still don’t know what a three ninety-six is, I’m guessing something to do with an engine, but the point is that that’s how good of a storyteller he is.  He taps into things that are universal so well that it doesn’t matter to me if I have no experience of my own with the metaphor, or the vehicle, wink wink, that he’s using.  That’s what I’ve aspired to do with Reckless Son.  I wanted to make the experience of being incarcerated relatable to people who haven’t had that experience themselves, I wanted to write songs that would allow them to empathize with someone they would normally think they had nothing in common with.”

Matt Butler

GW: Which artists (musicians or otherwise) do you admire the most, and why?

MB: “Admiring an artist and admiring their work are two different things, and I do my best never to put anybody on any kind of pedestal no matter how much I love their work.  That being said, Walt Whitman wrote what’s arguably the foundational masterpiece of American poetry.  But what’s really special is that he stopped writing so he could work as a nurse in a field hospital during the Civil War.  I think that’s the kind of thing I admire most.”

GW: When and how did you know that you wanted to produce your own album? Has that always been a dream of yours, or did it happen organically? Can you explain the difference between Reckless Son, which will be released on January 27, and the Reckless Son that was released in 2016?

MB: “The record from 2016 is a different body of work altogether.  It’s an album of different songs I released under my own name, whereas this time around I’m releasing the album under the name Reckless Son and giving the body of work an identity of its own.  I’m not telling my story; I’m telling the story of the Reckless Son.”

GW: “Time to Be A Man” is about taking responsibility for your own life… It's about saying this is who I am and this is what I’m going to be; I want my life and I won’t throw it away.” Was there a defining moment in your life when you came to this realization? How have people responded to that song since its release? Any surprises?

MB: “Well, performing that song in a jail for the first time resulted in a pretty serious surprise.  I was terrified to play it because I was afraid that the guys would think I was talking down to them, being condescending, being just another one of the characters from the story in the song.  But the opposite happened – I was playing it in a heroin recovery program of a jail and after the song was done, one of the inmates stood up and said, ‘Hey man, that song really f****d with me,’ and I thought he was gonna kill me right then and there.  Instead, he ended up taking a massive risk and came clean with everybody in the place that he’d been faking his drug tests and had relapsed.  It was incredible, and what was even more remarkable was that the whole unit, including the correctional officers, rallied around this guy and supported him.  It was a moment I will never forget.”

Matt Butler

GW: “People who have lost everything or have had everything taken from them are often truly in touch with what matters most.” Wisdom definitely comes with a price. Especially the deeper we go. Any hard-earned wisdom you’d like to share?

MB: “Be kind to everybody.  Nothing bad ever happened to me as a result of being kind.”

GW: Best piece of advice you’ve ever received and who gave it to you?

MB: “My father used to always tell me ‘Don’t overplay your hand.’  Over the years, I’ve taken that to mean a lot of different things, but these days mostly just stay humble and grateful.”

GW: “Reckless Son is a hybrid of sorts… You could call it a one-man show with music. It’s a coming-of-age, a vision quest initiation, a rite-of-passage story.” Which books and/or authors have made a major impact on you as a person and/or artist? Why?

Matt Butler

MB: “My point of view has been informed by artists across a pretty wide spectrum of mediums.  For Reckless Son I was really influenced by John Steinbeck, specifically The Grapes of Wrath.  I was also influenced by others you, or PBS, might call American Masters – painters like Thomas Hart Benton, Winslow Homer, Andrew Wyeth.  Photography of Dorothea Lange.  Bob Dylan.  Leslie Marmom Silko and her novel Ceremony had a huge impact on me.  More than anything though, Homer.  I read a children’s version of The Odyssey when I was little and it changed me forever.  I’ll think I’ll be trying to tell my own version of that story forever, too.”

Good Friday Lyric Video -

Good Friday Smart Link -

Good Friday Monologue -

Good Friday SoundCloud -